- The Sand DunesAn Elegy
First in the air, you big-hearted boy. Our fingertips barely touch—so eager are you to feel the hot sand under your feet disappear. We hold hands, all of us, and fling ourselves off this small ledge as if we’re superheroes, as if our very lives depend on it. We try to stay in the air as long as possible. Every piece of a second counts. We arch our backs and holler. We kick our legs up and off to the side. We fling our bellies up to the clouds and twist and turn—we must be flying through the air forever—until the ground reaches up and grabs us, and we crash in a series of thuds and grunts, laughing and rolling around.
AGAIN! you shout, AGAIN! And we scramble back up the dunes, all toes and elbows and knees, tumbling over each other like puppies.
Each time we land, the clock starts again—first one second, then another, then another, then hundreds, then thousands and millions more. It is over before we know it, like everything else. Later, we canoe the Crystal River and get caught in a rainstorm, every drop stinging our arms and legs like mosquitoes. When the rain stops, we beach the boats and scrounge together as many dry twigs as we can, enough for a small fire. Our father wrings out our T-shirts and roasts them as if they’re marshmallows, and we burrow into them until we are all warm, inside and out. Back at the camper we are each allowed to choose our own can of Faygo to drink, which we cradle and nurse, feeling very grown up. Our sleeping bags are scratchy with sand, and we flop on top of them to play Hearts, a choir of crickets and frogs singing to us under the stars.
You snuggle up next to me when the flashlights go out because we are both a little scared, a little afraid of the dark. Your hair smells like ashes and [End Page 87] strawberry shampoo. It’s nice to have you near. I dream about our time in the air, the triumph of flight, and there is not one part of me that can imagine a world capable of moving along without you. That night and in my dreams always, I reach for your hand. You are the first in the air, you beautiful boy, your fingers stretched up toward the sun. [End Page 88]
Rachael Perry wrote her story about a loved one who died unexpectedly and who everybody in the family misses like crazy. The elegy is for him, and for his own beautiful boys who are just like him, and for Honey and Pappi, who are stronger and braver than we imagined.